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|| News Item: Posted 1998-09-12

Covering the Game: Football
By Robert Hanashiro

Peter Read Miller of Sports Illustrated and Rod Mar of the Seattle Times have different philosophies and different styles. But the results are the same: interesting, high impact action photography. Today it's not uncommon to see local newspapers and wire services committing three or four photographers to a regular season game. To use an old Texas Rangers expression (not the baseball team) "One riot, one ranger," Rod covers Seattle Seahawks games solo. Peter is the master of the super telephoto. Whether he's in the end zone of a football game with an 800mm or at the top of an Olympic swimming venue with a 1200mm, Peter's images are clean,tight, unusual and exciting.

SPTSHTR: In this day of crowded sidelines and new restrictions by the NFL, do you follow the action up and down the sidelines or let it come to you (or is there some Zen philosophy you might subscribe to)? In this pursuit, what is your favorite lens?

PRM: Basically I like to work from the end zone with a 600mm or 600 plus 1.4 extender. Preferably working with the light. Obviously, the course of the game may force me to move, but I'll usually go right to the other end zone. I'd rather get a pass reception from 120 yards away with the 600 + 1.4 and have a clear view than be in the end zone where it was scored and have the catch go to the other side.

On today's crowded and ever widening sidelines, it's just too difficult to cover that much of the field. Whenever I go to the sidelines it seems more and more I'm looking up a at the big screen on the scoreboard to see what happened after the play disappeared from my view behind an assistant strength coach's back.

RM: I favor finding the action rather than letting it come to me, because I'm often the only shooter from our paper covering that particular game. I find it keeps me "in the game" more if I chase the action.That way I keep in mind the score, down and distance, etc. Also, I tend to listen to the game on the radio through headphones as another way of keeping in touch. This way I'll know if a particular player is injured or if a team has a tendency in a given situation, sometimes the play-by-play guys give it away. It's happened and I've taken advantage of it.

It's funny that you mention Zen philosophy, becauseI try to "get Zen" when I shoot. If I'm totally involved in the game, I shoot more instinctual, which makes for more peak moments.

And while I think I get my share of peak action moments, it's the non-action or reactive pictures that I find adds to whatever success I have. This is constantly thinking about all the possibilities of what could happen after the play or after the game, will net good pictures. It's advice that (Seattle Time's staffer) Harley Soltes gave me when I was first starting out. Even though he gave up being a sports shooter years ago to work on our Sunday magazine, not a month goes by when someone at the Times says "that's almost as good as Harley would have done." So, props to Harley for a photo in Philadelphia this past weekend! It was a picture of Seahawks coach Dennis Erickson hugging quarterback Warren Moon that got the most response from people. It's quiet, with no faces and no ball, but for Seahawks followers, it has meaning because the team has struggled for so long and never won a season opener under Erickson.

SPTSHTR: Do you do any research prior to games on the teams you're shooting or do you basically have the same game plan no matter who and where you're shooting?

PRM: I don't specifically research the teams I shoot, but I do try to keep a high level of awareness about football in general. I read the L.A. Times, USA Today, SI and Edelstien's Newsletter regularly during the season. My game plan really depends on the assignment-are we just going for game action or is it that third string guard who's caught my editor's fancy this week.

RM: I do a little research before each game, if only to get a basic gist of the star players, if a team is generally a running team or if they've got any particular strengths or weaknesses. At Philly last week, everything I read told me that Eagles' qb Bobby Hoying was green and that their offensive line was weak. As a result, when Seattle was on defense, I spent a lot of time from behind the Eagles offense and was rewarded with three or four pretty good sack pictures, which helped to tell the story of the game.

SPTSHTR: What do you consider he best stadium to work and the worst stadium?

PRM: Bad: any place they seat fans on the field (like) Michigan State, Notre Dame. Any place the field guards jump out on the field when the home teams scores (like) Notre Dame. And any place you have to go into the stands to get around the bench (like) Colorado. Any place where large animal mascots are kept on the field (places like) Texas, Colorado, USC.

Denver this year for the Monday night preseason game was very bad. ABC had four camera crews in the TV zone ( three more than I though the rules allowed) and the set back was deeper than I have ever seen. Good: USC on Sunday (Kickoff Classic at the Los Angeles Coliseum) where they actually had a line for photogs and a line behind that line for all other non shooting folks (I love it!). Any Division III school.

RM: The Worst stadium to shoot in? The Kingdome. But then I may just be a little biased. It's not only dark, but there's no contrast in the lighting and it's hard to pick up focus sometimes. The best? Anything outdoors. Even at night it beats the Kingdome.

SPTSHTR: What is your around the neck/"oh shit" lens of choice?

PRM: My around the neck camera these days in an 85. I used to use a 50, but we're so far back now that even an 85 can be a little short. Of course once in a while I get jammed, then I think about a zoom, but they're too heavy.

RM: I carry a short zoom (70-210) for the end zone and a wide angle zoom. I'll grab a flash at halftime so I have it for post game stuff. While the long lens is my mainstay, I've really gone towards working the end zones with the 70-210, if only to be a little riskier and to SHOW the end zone if it's a touchdown picture. A 400mm shot in the end zone is often so tight that you can't tell where it happens. You then sacrifice some nice tight celebratory shots, but hey, those are a dime a dozen, right?

SPTSHTR: Is it getting harder these days (more crowded sidelines/new NFL rules) or easier because of auto focus systems like the EOS1n and Nikon F5?

PRM: Is it getting harder or easier to shoot? Obviously all the new equipment available has raised the level of everyone's work and the crowding and restrictions have made things harder for everyone. I think it still boils down to those few shots that you see every year that only one person has, no matter how many people shot a particular game or what the conditions were. That hasn't changed at all.

RM: I don't think shooting football is any harder than it has been, since there's always been obstacles in our way. I haven't had any problems yet with live TV people getting in the way anymore than before. It's often the security guards, friends of the team, etc., that make it tough.

SPTSHTR: Any observations technical-wise? New films, digital cameras?
PRM: About the only new thing I'm doing technically is shooting Kodak's E200 at plus 1 1/2 or plus 2 (stops) from the back lit side of these harshly lit games we've been having (like recent games) SF/Miami, USC/Purdue. The grain is pretty good and the contrast holds up quite well. Of course shooting neg would be the simpler solution.

RM: Shooting digital, per se, is not harder than film, but editing can be hard because you can't tell sharpness as quickly as with film under a loupe. But you can't beat the speed. Lots of shooters have been fooled by the preview screen on the back of the DCS520, because EVERYTHING looks sharp.

SPTSHTR: Any interesting or a funny story connected to a football imageyou've shot,like John Storey's famous famous "The Catch?"

PRM: My football (non) image story-and it too is about "The Catch" (Dwight Clark's game winning catch against Dallas in the 1982 NFC Championship Game): Every year around Super Bowl NFL films goes into hyperdrive showing and reshowing every great moment of the game, (deep voice) "And the Gladiators took the field on that gray and fateful day...." bla bla bla..."

Of course they show "The Catch" about a million times...If you look to screen right you will notice a tall guy with long brown hair in a green raincoat, he's got a 400 2.8 Canon in his arms and he's struggling to get the camera around his neck up to shoot. As much as I watch that clip he NEVER gets the camera up in time. But, maybe someday...

RM: I honestly can't tell you a specific story about a specific picture, if only because you mentioned the Dwight Clark catch. When I get a picture that sweet, I'll tell you. But don't hold your breath.

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